Smile Like You Mean It

In the course of running our weekend errands, Guy and I stopped for Chipotle burritos (yum!). Between bites, he looked at me thoughtfully and asked, “What percentage of women do you think wear makeup every day?”

Huh?

I looked up at the people waiting in line for food. Three women in a row appeared to wear no makeup. Noticing them had prompted his question. But from where I was seated, I observed another three women in line, spread out, who wore makeup. So the makeup to makeup-less took an even split.

Turns out, that might be about right. A Google search turned up a study done at the end of 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Renfrew Center Foundation. They found that nearly half of U.S. women have negative feelings about their face when they don’t wear makeup. Sixteen percent said they feel “unattractive” when bare-faced; fourteen percent felt self-conscious and another fourteen percent described feeling “naked” without makeup. Of those surveyed, one-quarter began wearing makeup around age thirteen.

I thought about my own approach to makeup. I wear it most days, especially if I’m going to work or out socially. I feel more presentable, put-together, confident. At home or around the neighborhood, I don’t bother. And with age, I’m more inclined to run errands with just some moisturizer and lip gloss. Maybe that’s counter intuitive… As my skin ages, maybe I should feel the need to cover its imperfections. On the other hand, maybe the wisdom of age allows me to care less what the grocery checker thinks of my middle-aged skin.

True to statistics, I began wearing makeup regularly in junior high school, as did most of my friends. Then again, as I told my husband, I recall clear as day a church program when I was in elementary school. A room filled with six to twelve-year-old girls taught by a handful of middle-aged women. The moral of that day’s lesson? “If the barn needs painting, by all means, paint it!”

Can you imagine? Under the guise of raising good, God-fearing young women, these babies were taught that our sweet, young faces were akin to barns. And those barns needed some cover-up, stat.

I am so grateful that, at least to some degree, society has moved on. That body-positivity is a thing, and that we are learning to love and care for our physical selves. Not to neglect the body nor to worship it, but to care for it because it is a good gift.

I carried that conversation throughout the day as I interacted with women and men, young and old, attractive and, honestly, less so. And again I became convinced: a smile does everything for our appearance. I have—and so have you—met many physically beautiful people who wear on their face the discontent of their hearts, and they become less attractive as a result.

Yes, I wear makeup most days. But I also smile. And I have watched as the smile on my face breaks through barriers of discomfort or formality. I have witnessed a smile create a bridge between us. I have felt the warmth shared smiles can create.

Whether or not I happen to be wearing makeup when we meet (likely, I will be), I do hope you’ll find me smiling. And I hope you’ll smile back.

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